I was listening to a podcast by Ajahn Brahm, my favourite Buddhist monk, and he says really brilliant things sometimes. In a recent podcast he said this: "When we don't make plans, things don't work out; when we make plans, things don't work out."
Have you ever experienced that? Focusing all your time and energy on a plan: crossing every "t", dotting every "i", accounting for every possible scenario, all the while fretting and worrying over the outcome? Maybe not eating or exercising like you should? Maybe pulling away from friends or your own spouse? Maybe not taking care of yourself spiritually? All that, only to have it not work out? And, oh the devastation- worrying and planning only to see one's work crumble beneath the weight of the not working out. I have devoted months, in some cases entire years, to projects at work that didn't work out… All the while ignoring my health, my spirituality, problems in my marriage. When those plans don’t work out, when my “work” doesn’t provide the results I worked so hard for – it has been devastating to me.
Ajahn Brahm isn't suggesting that we don't make plans, of course, and that wouldn't feel comfortable for all of us non-monks. He goes on to talk about present moment awareness and how we can use it to really focus on our environment. To deal with the day to day details of life and not become so obsessive about all the what-ifs that lead to so much worry.
I contend that a little healthy worrying isn't a terrible thing. Worrying about the outcome of something very often motivates me to make positive adjustments and improvements. I appreciate this reminder though. The reminder to find balance, to let go, to give up control.
Monks don't have money, so they don't buy food. Ajahn Brahm will often say he doesn't worry about where his next meal will come from. The monastery will always feed him, or it won't. He'll either be hungry or he won't, but worrying won't help him, because he hasn’t got control over those circumstances.
It's a philosophical question we must all answer for ourselves, and the answer is so individualised. Do you worry excessively about the circumstances of your life? Does it help you, or does it interfere with your ability to be happy and stay focused on what's important?
As ever, I'm working on finding balance between allowing myself to worry just enough to be motivated but not so much that I can't be successful in other pursuits. I guess that means I'm also working letting go, and emotional multi-tasking. I'll let you lot know how it goes...